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Nuclear Radiation Alpha Beta Gamma

January 21, 2013

In Greek,the first three alphabets are alpha beta and gamma,as a,b and c in English. Atomic nuclie have generally same number of neutrons as protons and this helps the nuclei to maintain stability.However when the number of neutrons is in excess so that the N/P ratio is more than required for stability,then the nuclei become unstable,just as excess number of potatoes packed in a plastic bag.The bag ultimately breaks.

Introduction to nuclear radiation alpha beta gamma

In a similar way,the unstable nucei would undergo fragmentation,giving rise to another unidentical element.When this happens ,the ‘excess’ items are thrown away as rays,which are nothing but compositions of neutrons,protons or electromagnetic radiations.Now we can dicuss about nuclear radiation in following paragraphs.

These rays are named as alpha, beta and gamma as they were discovered progressively.

Nuclear Radiation : Alpha Rays

They are nothing but Helium nuclei. They are represented by 2 protons and 2 neutrons.As a result the emission of an alpha particle would reduce the mass number by 4 and atomic number by 2. e.g:-

23892U      →      23490Th      +      42He

These particles don’t travel very far but are high in penetrating strength.They  are stopped by thin sheets or even air.As it passes through air,it goes on loosing energy,which is utilized to break atoms in air. A garunted source of it is the metal Americium.

Nuclear Radiation : Beta and Gamma Rays

These are high energy particles. It is assumed that if an outsider neutron splits,it may split in a proton and electron.The electron may be emitted as beta ray,and the proton may increase the atomic number of the resulting  nuclei by one. e.g.

23490Th  ——-> 23491Pa      +        0-1e

Most commonly used source of beta particles is Strontium-90. It is used in treating different types of cancers.

nuclear radiation : Gamma rays

They are high energy electromagnetic waves.The emmission doesn’t affect the mass or atomic number. As they bear high energy,they are dangerous to living things as the rays damage the living tissues.


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